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John & the Next Step - 1/28/18

JOHN AND THE NEXT STEP

Luke 3: 1-22

The word of God did not come to the palaces of the great … or the mighty in
Church or state … but to John, … in the wilderness.
People may be impressed with names and titles … but God is not.
As Peter told the household of Cornelius; … God shows no partiality: … “Now I
really understand that God doesn’t show favoritism” (Acts 10:34).
Tiberius was Emperor in Rome; … Pontius Pilate was governor in Judea; …
Herod was king in Galilee. …his brother Philip, king of the region of Iturea and
Trachonitis … and Lysanias was king of Abilene, ... Annas and Caiaphas were the
two high priests in Jerusalem.
The word of God did not come to the palaces of any of these men.
The word of God came to John, in the wilderness.
For 400 years there had been no word of prophecy … but now one came in the
spirit of Elijah and the prophets. … Matthew tells us that John was dressed in
camel’s hair, and lived on a diet of locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4).
John preached a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
His message was straightforward: … “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has
come near!” (Matthew 3:2).
This was echoed in the opening salvo of the message of Jesus: …From then on
Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!”
(Matthew 4:17).
We must recognize the horror of sin.
We must understand what it is to offend God.
We must see our own guilt in its true colors.
We must turn from our sinful ways with sorrow.
We must accept God’s offer of free forgiveness.
We must turn to God with a new desire to love and serve Him.
That is what it is to repent!
John came to the river Jordan to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus.
This was in fulfilment of the words of a prophecy written 800 years before,
Isaiah 40:3-5: … Prepare the way of the LORD in the wilderness; make a straight
highway for our God in the desert. 4  Every valley will be lifted up, and every
mountain and hill will be leveled;

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the uneven ground will become smooth and the rough places, a plain. 5  And the
glory of the LORD will appear, and all humanity together will see it, for the mouth
of the LORD has spoken
Along with his call to repentance, … John gave a solemn warning; … baptism was
the way by which other nations were initiated into the Jewish faith. … However,
… even the Jews needed the remission of sins.
As Paul teaches, “that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all
who believe, since there is no distinction. 23  For all have sinned and fall short of the
glory of God” (Romans 3:22-23).
John warned his hearers not to rely on their descent from Abraham. … They still
needed to repent of their sins.
The Old Testament system was passing away … and God was able to raise up new
children for Abraham from the stones of the ground.
It is foolishness for anyone to imagine that they might have peace with God by any
other way than that which God has provided. … If we come from a Christian
background, … we cannot rely upon the faith of our parents; … we must repent
… and look to Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.
It is not enough to just occasionally listen to the preaching of God’s word.
There were doubtless, some who came to hear John because of the novelty of it.
The message is the same today: … We must each repent of our sins … and live our
lives accordingly.
One of the evidences of true repentance is the change that takes place in our lives.
If we are sincere in our desire for forgiveness, … we will also be willing to replace
the old bad deeds … with present good deeds.
John encouraged the rich to share with the poor. … A true repentant will be
underscored by a new generosity of spirit.
The early Church; … “held (shared) everything in common” (Acts 4:32).
John told the tax collectors to end their corruption; … John instructed the soldiers
to end their violence; … he sanctioned against bearing false witness; … he warned
them to be content with their wages.
The people were so impressed with John, that they began to wonder if he was the
Christ; … the anointed Savior promised long ago by God.
John responded by pointing away from himself. … This is what all true ministers
of God will do: … the message of the gospel is not about us, … it is about Jesus!
John humbly acknowledged that he was unworthy even to stoop down and untie
the sandals of Jesus.
So John was astonished when Jesus came to be baptized!

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This was the One whom he had earlier pointed out to his disciples with the words:
… “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
This was the One who was able to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
The symbolic cleansing of water baptism … is an outward symbol … of an inner
reality.
It is Jesus who gives us with His Holy Spirit … and purifies us from our sins.
It is also Jesus who will come as judge at the end of the age.
Matthew tells us that John even tried to stop Jesus from being baptized. … “But
John tried to stop Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and yet You come to
me?” Jesus answered: … “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill
all righteousness.”
Then John baptized Him (Matthew 3:14-15).
Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of God’s righteous law. … Jesus was not a
sinner, so He had no need of repentance. … Yet the Apostle Paul tells us that: …
“He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become
the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Please understand this scripture; … Jesus did not become a sinner … but He
carried His people’s (us) sin away … on the Cross of Calvary.
Then He rose from the dead … and endowed His belivers with life and power.
In submitting to the rite of baptism, … Jesus was also setting an example of
obedience for His followers. … After He was baptized, … while Jesus prayed, …
the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. … The voice of God proclaimed from
heaven, “You are My beloved Son. I take delight in You!”
The commission which Jesus left us is: … “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
Christian baptism is not the same as the baptism administered by John
The Apostle Paul found some believers in Ephesus who had been baptized into
John’s baptism. … Paul said: … “Then what baptism were you baptized with?” he
asked them. “With John’s baptism,” they replied. 4  Paul said, “John baptized with
a baptism of repentance, telling the people that they should believe in the One who
would come after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5  When they heard this, they were baptized
in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:3-5).
Christian baptism is an outward demonstration of the inner reality of our new birth
… and by it, … we testify that we have been cleansed from our sins by the blood
of Jesus.

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Our baptism signifies our union with Christ!
Paul teaches: … “Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ
Jesus were baptized into His death? 4  Therefore we were buried with Him by
baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the
glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life.” (Romans 6:3-4).
Jesus associated Himself with humanity’s sin when He was baptized by John.
When we are baptized, … we are coupled with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is the bond by which Jesus unites us to Himself.
Our union with Christ is secured when we put our faith in Jesus. … Our baptism
visibly seals the work of God in our hearts.
First, … we must put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then we must obey His commandment to be baptized.
“Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus
Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy
Spirit. (Acts 2:38).
This is not a request; … it is a command; … one that is submitted to through
obedience and love of our Messiah!
Understand this: … It is not a requirement for entry into Heaven but is an
obligation we should joyfully fulfill upon our confession of Jesus the Christ!
AMEN

Flu Season! - 1/28/18

Pastor’s Corner 01 28 2018

Jesus is alive and well; … why aren’t we?
1 Corinthians 6: 19 reads: … “ 19  Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of
the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own”.
On Tuesday, I was at the hospital with a member of our Church. The point of that
is, if this person had of needed to be checked into a hospital room; it would have
just been too bad. There are no rooms available in Titus Regional Hospital!
THE FLU, … THE FLU, … THE FLU!
Do we think the Holy Spirit is happy living in a body with the flu?
None of us should be obsessed with health. If we do, than that becomes our god …
instead of GOD. But we do need to realize that the Holy Spirit does live within us
and for that to be an advantage to the Kingdom, we need to take better care of His
“sanctuary”, … your body.
The flu shot is out there for most of us to take and normally, it is FREE! Of course
no one likes a needle … but do we like fever, muscle aches, upset stomach, chills,
headaches and dizziness better? I hope not.
Not everyone can take the vaccine but many, many more can … but are not. Go
figure!
For us to do the Works of the Kingdom, … we need to be healthier. Get some
exercise, take Vitamin C and Zink, partake in a more balanced diet, sanitize hands
regularly … AND FOR EVERYONE’S SAKE, … GET A FLU SHOT!
Consider this: … You might even save someone’s life by not giving them the flu.
People do die form this, you know. Over 23,000 a year.
Do you and the Holy Spirit a favor; … take care of yourself.
We love you and need you!
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Jim

Lost and Found - 1/21/18

LOST AND FOUND 01-21- 2018

Luke 2: 41-52
“What do you do when you lose the Son of God?”
Mary and Joseph had a wonderful celebration of their first Christmas.
The Bible says that when Mary received the news that she began to contemplate
the words that Gabriel had spoken to her. … Now she has given birth and she and
Joseph would now take on the incredible job of raising the Son of God.
So here’s the question; … how exactly do you do that? … How do you raise God’s
Son?
The Bible teaches clearly that Jesus was born without sin. … How do you raise a
child like that; … a child that you … will perhaps learn more from … than they
will learn from you.
Let’s look at what they do.
As we learned in the two previous sermons, … Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in
the temple when he was eight days old.
After that, … we have no record of anything in His life until he was twelve years
of age.
I wish we did! … I would really like to know more about His childhood … but we
don’t have those records.
We then move to a familiar story of when Jesus was twelve. … The setting is that
every year, Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the
Passover. … That was the custom for a devout Jew … and Mary and Joseph
followed it.
Jesus was twelve years of age at the time. … When the feast was over, His parents
left and were returning home; … what they didn’t know was that Jesus was not
with them.
Our first question is this; … what kind of parents are they!? … They are raising
the Son of God … and they left to make the journey home … and He is nowhere to
be found.
Vs. 44 reads: … “Assuming He was in the traveling party, they went a day’s
journey. Then they began looking for Him among their relatives and friends”
Now as hard as that is to imagine, … it’s explained pretty easy. … Men walk
faster, for-the- most-part, … than women.
So it was a tradition that when families were traveling together, … the women
would leave earlier than the men.

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The men would then start the journey later but would eventually catch up and they
would all arrive home at the same time. … That’s apparently what happened in this
case. … Also, … it is possible that Mary thought Jesus was with Joseph …
and Joseph thought Jesus was with her.
We all know … it happens! … My parents left me at Church when I was about 5 or
6. … Mother never checked to see if she had all her kids, … just that she didn’t
have too many!
When they realized their blunder (Mary & Joseph), … the Bible tells us they did
what every good parent would do at this point; … they began looking for Him
among their relatives and friends. … Seems like the best place to start looking.
When they didn’t find Him, … they went back to Jerusalem to look.
They looked for three days. … That’s a long time. …
When I was in Junior High in Longview, … a couple across the street had five
children. … Each one was responsible for the one just younger than they were.
All the kids were made to stay outside when the weather permitted.
One of the younger ones, … about two and one half, … turned up missing.
The whole neighborhood went on the search!
About three hours into this, … the child was found sitting on the railroad track
about a block behind our house, playing with the cinder rocks.
A regular passenger train to Dallas, that should have already passed through, …
was late that day.
Did the parents get arrested for child neglect; … NOOOOO!
The child, one year older, … that was responsible for the kid, … was given a
spanking for losing his brother.
I never did see the justice in that.
That was three hours; … here we’re talking about three days! … That’s a long
time. … No one wants a child to be lost for any length of time … but certainly not
overnight.
Then it happens; … after three days of frantic searching, … the couple walks into
the temple and there is Jesus sitting among the teachers, … listening and asking
questions. … The Bible teaches us that all who heard Him were amazed.
As for Mary and Joseph, … they were astonished, … flabbergasted!
Look at verses 48-49: … When His parents saw Him, they were astonished, and
His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us like this? Your father and I
have been anxiously searching for You.”
49  “Why were you searching for Me?” He asked them. “Didn’t you know that I had
to be in My Father’s house?”
Jesus seems surprised. … It’s like; … where else do you think I would be?

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Verse 50 is very interesting: …  “ But they did not understand what He said to
them”
This suggest they did not fully understand what Jesus’ future held for Him …
even though they had already been told this was the Messiah.
We then come to another silent period in the life of Christ: … From the time He
was twelve until He was about thirty when He entered into public ministry; …
eighteen years of silence.
All of it summed up in this verse: Luke 2:52: … “And Jesus increased in wisdom
and stature, and in favor with God and with people”
This could easily be a life verse for any of us.
A life verse is a passage from the Bible that really speaks to us … and as a result,
… we claim that passage for how we will live our life.
Another one I like is Isaiah 40:28-31: … “Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows
faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. 29  He gives strength to the
weary and strengthens the powerless. 30  Youths may faint and grow weary, and
young men stumble and fall, 31  but those who trust in the LORD will renew their
strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary;
they will walk and not faint”
In my dealings with the challenges of the Church, … this verses give me strength.
Back to Luke 2:52.
This passage tells us how Jesus grew; … how he balanced His life … and tells us
where His priorities were.
Priority one: … Jesus grew in wisdom. … The book of James tells us that if we
want wisdom all we need to do is ask. … So there are apparently a lot of people
who never ask. … Would you agree? … I just don’t see a lot of wisdom in this
world. … Do you?
James 1: 5 tells us that the source of all wisdom is heaven, … looking to God.
Jesus had wisdom and there are several mechanisms we need to know about
wisdom.
(1) Wisdom has a beginning. … There is a specific time when it begins to enter our
lives. … The psalmist wrote in Psalm 110: 11: ... “The fear of the Lord is the
beginning of wisdom”.
Fear often means respect … and that is what it does here. … If we respect
someone, we tend to do what they tell us. … We “disrespect” someone when we
disobey. … The first step to secure wisdom ..,. is to fear / respect God by doing
what He says; … OBEY!. … That demonstrates an ownership of wisdom.

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When we disobey, … likewise, … we demonstrate that we are foolish.
(2) The world offers many paths to find wisdom … but they will not get us to our
destination.
If wisdom is our goal … and we take the path the world offers, … we will not
make it to that goal. … The world promises it … but the world cannot deliver.
The world will tell us do-this- or-that … and we will have success.
We see this early in the scripture when God says to Adam … you are free to eat
from any tree in the garden, except one … and of course, … that’s the one they ate
from. … Why?: … Genesis says that they believed that by eating from that tree
that they would gain wisdom. … God says don’t do it, … it won’t work. …
Satan says that’s not what He meant, …. so they do it … and thousands of years
later, … we still have not learned to listen to God … instead of listening to the
world.
(3) The greatest source of wisdom is the Bible. … 2 Timothy 3:15 says: …
“and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which
are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”
All true and relative wisdom comes from this book. … PERIOD!!!!!
(4) Wisdom also has an end. … God has the power to destroy wisdom if we use it
for the wrong purpose.
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.” (1 Corinthians 1: 19)
Ever known someone who just seemed so smart … but then they do something
that’s not so smart … (most of us would say “STUPID”)?
Or you grew up with someone who was so intelligent … and you talk to them
years later and you think; … “what happened?”
They had wisdom … and … they lost it.
If we misuse it, … God takes it away!
Priority one: … Jesus grew in wisdom. … He grew wiser.
Priority two: … Jesus grew in stature. … He grew physically. … He was fit.
The scripture tells us that our bodies are the “sanctuary of the Holy Spirit”
(1 Corinthians 6: 19).
We house God in our bodies! … We need to take care of our body. … We need to
be in the best physical shape possible.
The key is balance. … We don’t have to spend our life at the gym … but we do
need to take care of ourselves. … Think about the lifestyle of Jesus.
He worked in the carpenter’s shop with His father. … It was hard physical work.
Different tools then; … no electric power, … no DeWalt

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He walked constantly … from town to town teaching and doing ministry.
Jesus stopped to rest. … He got away; … occasionally separating Himself from the
crowds, … the grind.
He endured the cross. … No man could have endured what Jesus went through if
he was not in good shape physically.
Priority three: … Jesus grew in favor with God. … Jesus grew spiritually.
That is hard for us to grasp … but that means He was at this (hand gesture) level
… and then moved to this (hand gesture) level.
As a child, … He was not fully developed spiritually. … He prayed, … He read
and memorized scripture, … He went to the temple or synagogue every week, …
He taught; … He learned all He could by asking questions of the teachers in the
temple … and it was His purpose every day to do the will of God and nothing else.
He was constantly growing in favor with God.
Priority four: … Jesus grew in favor with humankind. … He grew in
relationships. … Until the final week of His life Jesus was very popular. …
People loved Him. … Everyone wanted to be friends with Him. … He is described
as the friend of sinners. … The tax collectors and sinners were in a class all by
themselves and they were not well thought of … but Jesus was their friend.
He never overlooked anyone.
What about us?
Listen, … the majority of the people we will lead to Jesus, will be people we are
friends with.
They must accept us many times … before they will let us talk to them about Jesus.
This is what God wants us to know about those 18 years. … Jesus grew.
Henry Blackaby (founder of Blackaby Ministries International and an influential
evangelical pastor), says “you cannot stay where you are and go with God. We
must grow”.
For me, … I have found that one of the most important assets in life is balance …
even though many times I fail at the task, … I see too many believers who get
involved in just one focus … and never branch out and grow. … I have seen
believers who read every book that comes out on the demonic or end times. …
Yes we fight spiritual battles … and yes we need to know who the enemy is and
how to defend ourselves … but a constant focus on the demonic … or any singular
point of mysticism … will lead us down a dangerous path. … Balance matters!
People put the core of their attention on just their physical bodies, … appearance
… and they become vain. … Direct your vision on only social relationships …
and you will leave God completely out of your life.

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All of us know what it feels like when life gets out of balance. …
Ever feel that way?
Let me ask a question: … What do you plan to do with the next, say … five years
of your life?
No matter who you are, … your life will change. … For some, dramatically.
What will be your summary statement for you for the next five years?
I want the next five years of my life to count for something. … I don’t want to
waste it … and the time to start is today. … Right now!
Don’t know Christ? … Come to Him today. … Need to start over? … Come and
pray with the pastor or one of this Church’s Elders.
Whatever God tells you to do, … don’t put it off.
Today is the time for you to … “grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with
God”

AMEN

MARY - 1/14/18

MARY’S HUMILITY, MARY’S FAITH, MARY’S PRAISE

Luke 2: 36-40

Proud people get in the way … because if they aren’t yielded to God, they begin to
think they can handle life on their own.
To recap; … Mary is visited by an angel and told she will carry the Son of God and
is to name Him Jesus, … Mary discovers Elizabeth (her cousin) is pregnant at quite
an advanced age, … Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem to be counted, … Jesus
is born in a humble stable, … shepherds are visited by a host of angels and go to
see this newborn King, … now Mary and Joseph have brought the baby Jesus to
the Temple.
That is where we are in this beginning of the New Covenant!
Have you ever given much thought to the world into which Jesus was born?
It was a time of spiritual darkness. … It had been four hundred years since the last
Old Testament prophet was inspired to write God’s words.
Until this time, … God has been silent.
Rome rules the "civilized" world … and the Greek culture is flooding the world, …
including many immoral and unfulfilling philosophies (kind of like today).
E. Stanley Jones, … a 20th-century Methodist Christian theologian, missionary and
lecturer to the educated classes in India … said this: … "Look what the world has
come to!" … the Bible says, "Look what has come to the world!"
It was during this dark and lonely time that darkness met its match … in the light
of Jesus!
The Good News of the birth of Jesus the Christ, is the most positive and uplifting
news anyone has heard in over 400 years … and that’s how Mary received it.
This news could have scared her to death. … As a poor young woman (most
believe still in her teens) … she could have been overwhelmed by her
circumstances. … Mary could have been filled with apprehension at the message
of the angel that she, … a young virgin, … would bear God’s ONLY Son!
Mary’s response to God’s revelation is an example to us all!
I want to ask this question: … “How should we respond to God?”
There are three vital Ways you and I should respond to God: …
1. Respond to God with humility.

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Look at Mary’s response when she heard the incredible news that she would give
birth to the Son of God.
Luke 1:38: …   “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me
according to your word.”
Humility is all about how we see our self … and Mary saw herself as a servant; …
that’s one of the reasons God chose her.
God cannot, … nor will He use “people of pride” to do His work.
Proud people get in the way … because if we aren’t yielded to God, … we begin to
think we can handle what comes up in our life, … on our own.
When that happens, … our pride will inflate our ego to the point we believe we
don’t need God … and we will eventually make a mess … of that God given life.
When God picked a town for Christ to be born in, … He picked the one camel
town of Bethlehem.
He chose a cattle stall as the delivery room where His Son was to be born.
When the angels announced Christ’s birth, … it was to humble shepherds on a
hillside; … not to Herod in the Jerusalem palace.
When He needed a servant to bear His Son, … He chose a humble young woman
from Nazareth.
God hasn’t changed. … He’s still looking for big commitments from people who
are small in their own eyes.
Proverbs 3:34: … “He mocks those who mock, but gives grace to the humble”
Here’s a reality for us; … being humble is simple, … when we realize that it’s a
matter of perspective … or viewpoint.
The naturalist, William Beebe told how he and Teddy Roosevelt would go out on
the lawn together after an evening of talk. … They would search the skies for a
certain spot of light near the lower left-hand corner of the Great Square of Pegasus.
Then Roosevelt would say, "That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. It is as large
as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of one
hundred billion suns, each larger than our sun."
Then Roosevelt would grin and say; "Now I think we are small enough! Let’s go to
bed."
What does it mean to be humble?
Andrew Murray, … a nineteenth century South African writer, teacher and
Christian pastor is quoted: … "The humble man feels no jealousy or envy. He can
praise God when others are preferred and blessed before him.

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He can bear to hear others praised while he is forgotten because ... he has
received the spirit of Jesus, who pleased not Himself, and who sought not His own
honor.
Therefore, in putting on the Lord Jesus Christ he has put on the heart of
compassion, kindness, meekness, longsuffering, and humility."
In the year 59, the Apostle Paul wrote these words in 1 Corinthians 15:9: … "For I
am the least of the apostles."
Four years later, in Ephesians 3: 8a, … he pinned: … "This grace was given to
me—the least of all the saints"
And a year after that in 1 Timothy 1:15b: … "Christ Jesus came into the world to
save sinners”—and I am the worst of them"
Here’s something for you to take home today. … As Paul matured, … he thought
less of himself.
Even at a very young age, … Mary possessed the humility of spirit that God
blesses.
Luke 1: 30: … “Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have
found favor with God
Grace is favor. … God favors the humble; … God blesses the humble; … He uses
the humble to accomplish His tasks; … He works in cooperation with the humble.
When God asks us to participate in His plans to help others, … we have a choice;
… just like Mary did.
She didn’t have to agree to carry this child and become a spectacle among her own
people.
we can choose to partner with God in His work … or we can just tell God to …
get-to- stepping!
Without hesitation, … we should all respond the same as Mary … and say, …
“I am the Lord’s slave, … May it be done to me according to your word.”
(Luke 1: 38)
When we approach God, … make sure it is with humility; … this is when God
works in our life.
2. The second quality Mary reflects in her life is FAITH.
Respond to God in faith.
In Luke 1:45 Elizabeth said to Mary: … “She who has believed is blessed because
what was spoken to her by the Lord will be fulfilled!”

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Let me ask this question: …
Do you think it was easier for Mary to trust God in her circumstances than it is for
us in ours?
What is God asking you to trust Him with, right now? … What are you dealing
with that God has said to you, … “Let Me handle it…Trust Me to do the right by
you.”
Was Mary’s circumstance easier than what we are dealing with right now?
Think about this, … she believed that, … even though she was a virgin, … she was
going to have a baby.
Why?; … Because God said so!
Has God ever asked you to believe something that required more faith than that?
Probably not!
Mary believed God’s message to her through the angel … and the writer of
Hebrews reminds us in Chapter 11: 6: … “Now without faith it is impossible to
please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and
rewards those who seek Him”
Faith honors God … and God honors faith!
Let me read you a story from the life of missionaries Robert and Mary Moffat on
how this illustrates truth.
For ten years this couple labored faithfully in Bechuanaland {Bek-uh- wah-nah-
land} (now called Botswana) … without one ray of encouragement to brighten
their way. … They could not report a single convert.
Finally the directors of their mission board began to question the wisdom of
continuing the work. … The thought of leaving their post, however, brought great
grief to this devoted couple. … They felt sure that God was in their labors …
and that they would see people turn to Christ in due season.
They stayed … and for a year or two longer, … darkness reigned. …
Then one day a friend in England sent word to the Moffat’s that she wanted to mail
them a gift and asked what they would like. … Trusting that in time, the Lord
would bless their work, … Mrs. Moffat replied: … "Send us a communion set; I
am sure it will soon be needed."
God honored that dear woman’s faith. … The Holy Spirit moved upon the hearts of
the villagers … and soon a little group of six converts was united to form the first
Christian Church in that land. … The communion set from England was delayed in
the mail … but on the very day before the first commemoration of the Lord’s super
in Bechuanaland, … the set arrived. (Paul Fritz)
Ralph Hodgson, … a twentieth century English poet is quoted: .. "Some things
have to be believed … to be seen."

5

Mary believed that what the Lord said to her would really happen … and it did!
The third fundamental way to respond to God is: …
3. Respond with praise.
Luke 1:46: … “And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”
Mary not only believes God enough to completely trust what He has said to her,
… her faith is so strong that she begins to praise God as if the birth of His Son has
already taken place!
What is our initial response when God allows us to face a situation that calls for us
to trust Him?
Do we doubt? … Are we filled with the dreaded “woe-is- me” virus?
Do we begin to feel sorry for our self and start singing the "Why Me Lord" song to
God?
Do we struggle with inner peace because of our worry?
The most important step in developing inner peace is to stop complaining …
and start praising!
How could Mary praise the Lord when this promise from God just flew in the face
of four thousand years of the history of the Bible?
The ONLY other man ever to exist, … without a human father was Adam …
AND NOW we find God asking Mary to trust Him … as He brings the
second Adam into the world by way of a virgin birth.
Instead of being confused and worried, … Mary was filled with praise!
If praise is not our natural response, … then we need to practice making it our
natural response.
If you and I want praise to come natural to us in the bad times, … we’re going to
have to practice praising God in good times … until it becomes second nature, …
until it becomes something we do almost without thinking.
I’m saying that praise was not something that Mary worked up. …
Praise came natural to her.
Praying and praise are two qualities a lot of people have got messed up ideas
about. … If we think we’re only supposed to pray when we’re in trouble …
and praise when everything is going great, … then we’ve got the wrong idea.
We are supposed to pray and praise all the time!
Here’s my question for all of us today: … How are we responding to God?
Are we responding to Him with humility? … Are we responding to Him with
faith? … Are we responding to Him with praise? – Think about it.
AMEN

This New Year - 1/7/18

THIS NEW YEAR
Luke 2: 21-40

God has made it possible for us to change; … not by making a New Year's
resolution … but by the work of his Holy Spirit in our hearts.

A new year is about to unfold
With new opportunities to explore
Doors will open for new experiences,
New adventures with the Lord
Remember not the former things,
The things of this past year,
The Lord will do new things in us,
Much more than we are aware
For He will make a way for us
As we put our trust in Him
And He will guide our every step
By His presence we have within
What God has placed within our hearts,
We find we'll be able to do
If we look for the opportunities,
We'll see the door to go through
We mustn't let anything hold us back
But rise up and take our place
And be all that God wants us to be
With a fresh touch of His grace
© By M.S.Lowndes

In 516 BC, … the reconstruction of the Temple was complete. … King Herod
renovated it in 19 BC, … expanding the facility to include what was basically a
large shopping precinct, where you could buy religious goods and animals for
sacrifice. …
It would have been a great sight to behold, … especially for Mary and Joseph who
had come from a very small town to the big city.

Mary and Joseph were faithful Jews. … They would have travelled for about a
week to get there, at great expense. … For them, … observing the laws of
purification was absolutely essential. … _
Verse 39: … “When they had completed everything according to the law of the
Lord”
They dedicated Jesus, … their firstborn son to the Lord, … which would have
involved paying a redemption price to the Temple (Numbers 18: 16: … You will
pay a redemption price for a month-old male according to your evaluation: Five
shekels by the standard sanctuary shekel, which is 20 gerahs).
They also went in order to make a sacrifice for ritual cleansing, following
childbirth (Leviticus 12: 6: …“When her days of purification are complete,
whether for a son or daughter, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the
tent of meeting a year-old male lamb for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a
turtledove for a sin offering”).
And all of this, for the child who was destined to be the sacrifice to end all
sacrifices.
His death would destroy the need for a Temple. … Because of Him, … the need
for ritual purification would end with His generation.
Last Sunday night, … Karen and myself watched a ritual purification of sorts
We watched the fireworks at the Reunion Tower Ball on TV at midnight.
The fireworks display bringing in the New Year were spectacular!
I’m sure, if we could have been there live, … the ritual would be relatively the
same with each New Year. … People dress up, … a lot of drinking … and finally
we get to the countdown.
It marks a new beginning; … a fresh start; … a time to turn over a new leaf and
start again; … a time to kiss the person who means the most to you.
Of course, this is a totally secular form of ritual purification. … It has absolutely
nothing to do with God … and it certainly wasn’t ordained by God, as the day of
Atonement was … but here’s what New Year’s Eve countdowns and the Temple
sacrificial system have in common: …
They don’t effect permanent change.
Jesus came to bring permanent transformation into people’s lives, … to bring in a
new kingdom, … a new period of history … and a brand new life for anyone who
wants it.
The sacrificial system could not achieve this.
Why not? … What was insufficient about the sacrificial system? (as we read the
scripture, … how do we answer this question?)

There were really two issues: …
1. Jesus fulfils the Old Covenant
First, in the long run, … no animal sacrifice was ever sufficient to deal with the
problem of sin – you had to keep going back.
Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all; … He bore the punishment of death on behalf of
all people for all time (in human flesh) … so that we can be totally forgiven and
freed from death.
But there was a second issue. … in the Old Testament, … when a sin offering was
made, … it wasn’t only the priest and God who made the exchange.
A person would place their hands on the animal to acknowledge their sinfulness
(their need to change) … and then the life of the animal would be offered for their
sins. … There was always an element of repentance.
The Law that God set before Moses was clear: … If the people obeyed, …
they would be blessed in the land; … if they disobeyed, … they would be cursed
… but … as Deuteronomy chapter 30 says, though they had sinned, if they turned
to the Lord (if they repented), … He would restore them and have compassion on
them. … It goes further to say that He would gather them from exile and
circumcise their hearts …
2. Jesus brings in a New Covenant
In-other- words, … where there is repentance, … God will forgive and bring about
a permanent change of the heart … so that there’s no going back year after year
after year … for the needed atonement.
As Jeremiah (31) and Ezekiel (36) prophesied, … God was going to create a new
covenant, in which He would bring about a permanent change of heart.
The problem with the Mosaic covenant wasn’t only that the people continually
sinned and needed constant forgiving. … God is a forgiving God, … which is why
He gave the gift of sacrifice. … He is ready and willing to forgive and start again;
… the problem was that they were required to repent … and repentance itself had
become a problem.
Because the people were living in darkness, … they didn’t know God, …
they didn’t know the truth … and their hearts had become hardened to the truth.
As Simeon took Jesus into his arms, he thanked God and said: … “For my eyes
have seen Your salvation. 31  You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples—
32  a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Your people Israel.” (vs. 30-32)
The prophecy goes on: … He says to Mary: … “Then Simeon blessed them and
told His mother Mary: “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of
many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed — 35  and a sword will pierce
your own soul” (vs. 34-35)

Repentance had become a problem for Israel. … Not only because they stubbornly
wouldn’t do it … but because they didn’t even know what to repent.
They were a people, as Isaiah prophesied, … living in darkness. Their eyes and
ears were shut from knowing the truth.
Repentance was always the necessary requirement for any sacrifice …
and it remains the way we access the benefits of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice.
This was John the Baptist’s message: … Jesus is coming to save you, …
prepare the way for Him by repenting.
Sin isn’t just something we do; … it’s something we think and feel.
It begins in the heart and a good (I would say) 90% of it, … remains hidden from
our consciousness.
We live in denial … about who we’ve judged, … who we’ve hated, … who we’ve
been jealous of … and what we have coveted.
It’s like the person who on the surface who is fit, … the picture of health …
and physically beautiful. … Then they go to have a CT Scan … and find their body
full of cancer. … Only small symptoms have begun to emerge … but how it looks
on the outside, … is no indicator of what’s inside the body.
Sin is like a cancer. … It goes unnoticed, … even by ourselves; …
until we come into the presence of a Holy God, … who shines a light and exposes
everything that is hidden. …
Jesus’ light is like a cat-scan over the body, … or a sword that pierces the soul.
Hebrews 4: 12 reads: … “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper
than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and
spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.
13  No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes
of Him to whom we must give an account”
Here’s the good news: …. Because we are forgiven, … we can stand before a Holy
God without fear … and we can face the truth in our hearts, … because we know
He has already paid the price for it ….
and that means we can do something no one can do outside of being hidden in
Jesus Christ: … We can repent … of everything!
As His light shows us the sin in our lives, … we can face it and repent of it.
We don’t need to live in darkness, making New Year’s resolutions and never
understanding why we can’t change, … despite our best efforts.

He has put The Holy Spirit within us, … who counsels us and shows us the sin in
our heart. … The secrets of our heart will be disclosed to us. …
This Sunday, we celebrate the beginning of a new year … but more importantly,
… that God made with us a new covenant ; … a covenant that does lead to
permanent change … and redemption!
AMEN

Special Message - 12/31/17

Once again it hits us. … The death of one we all knew and loved. The passing of Kathy Ethridge
hit us hard and we will miss her deeply. Something about this just seems wrong and, for the most
part, unbelievable … that this is how we finish off 2017. Yes, … we take comfort in the promise
of Jesus Christ that all of us who believe in Him will pass from this existence to an eternity with
Him and never experience the sting of death. Yes, … we have solace in the fact that Paul and
Mable were waiting for her, … taking Kathy in their arms, … letting her know of the love she
will now experience that is beyond our understanding or knowhow …but even knowing all that
and accepting it, we will still long for her, … grieve for her … and Kathy’s family and husband
will suffer to their core.
As a Church body, it seems as though we have gone through this too much in a single year (but
what is too much?).
Let this wake us up!
We all need to do a better job of being prepared and that includes me. Life is not like the Left
Behind book series. When Jesus our Savior sends His angels to bring us home, WE NEED TO
BE READY with no regrets (there is no second chance). None of us are immortal and we need to
realize that as a FACT. Instead of wondering why God would take our loved ones or us, … we
need to bless Him for allowing us so much time with them. We call that building that we wake
up in each morning and go to bed in at night our home; … it is not! We will be at our home when
we are with our Heavenly Father in His eternal domain.
This message that is taken from the Gospels is good news. It is more life healing than any
medicine, surgery or chemo.
If you knew of a pill that would save lives, … wouldn’t you share it? The teachings of Jesus the
Messiah, … the promises He made to us, … the joy of His assurance … is the pill we need to be
sharing.
All praises to God for His Son that can and does save us!
Thank You Father God, … Thank You Jesus the Christ, … Thank You Holy Spirit!
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Jim

Advent Peace - 12/10/17

ADVENT PEACE 12 10 217
Isaiah 11: 1-10

Remember the riots in Los Angeles back in, … I believe it was 1994?
Remember what Rodney King said during those riots?: …
“Why can’t we all just get along?”
That’s a very good question that has been haunting human kind ever since the Fall.
“Why can’t we all just get along?”
There is a hunger for harmony in our world … but we just can’t seem to find a way
to feed it.
There is a hunger for hope.
We often find ourselves in all kinds of predicaments and can see no way out.
Many teenagers who sense they are different from others choose suicide because
they have no hope of acceptance by their school mates, … family, ... peers or
Church.
Many women stay in abusive relationships because they have come to believe they
can find no safe way out … and they believe they deserve the abuse anyway.
Many folks fall victim to various addictions and have no sense that there is hope
for overcoming their slow slide toward destruction.
Many become hopeless because of mental or physical impairments that make
coping with the simple tasks of everyday life … a hill too high to climb.
Our life situations and the structures of politics, … economics … and cultural
attitudes have pushed many of us into the camp of futility.
This is to be in hell … and Dante rightly depicted a sign fronting the gates of hell
reading: … “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
There is also great hunger for peace … but look at our world today!
Tensions abound!: … Set aside the world situations: …
Maybe there is some tension between some people we love; … some friends
getting a divorce; … some members of our family who are in conflict with one
another … or maybe someone has been separated from our family for some reason.
And what about our community?: …
There always seems to be a war going on somewhere. … The whole world is
grieving because war is raging in the part of the world that we are accustomed to
calling … “Holy Land.”
It’s common to hear: … “Those people have been fighting over there for
thousands of years … and they always will!”

2
Let us try not give in to that type … of attitude.
Let’s not give in to the attitude that there is … no hope … for harmony, … for
peace.
Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, … Isaiah came on the scene to bring
prophecies of salvation to people who were beaten down by the turmoil of war, …
by the lost sense of hope.
This morning’s Old Testament Lesson begins by saying: … “Then a shoot will
grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit”
Have you ever cut down a tree, … thinking you were done with it, … (especially
those who have dealt with Sweet Gum) … only to find the following spring that
the tree you had left for dead … now has a new shoot growing out of the stump?
This is God’s way of saying; … hope is on the way, … peace is near, …
harmony is close at hand, … new life will be fulfilled. …
What you thought was dead … is actually very much alive!
The royal family, …the family of David … had been cut down …
and only a stump was left.
Yet Isaiah says it shall sprout again.
David’s father was named Jesse … and Isaiah is telling us that Jesus the Savior …
is going to bring peace … and He is going to come from the house (or lineage) …
of David.
Jesus is that “Branch”… on Whom … “the Spirit of the Lord will rest” … and yes,
… a day will come when: … “The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard
will lie down with the goat. The calf, the young lion, and the fatling will be
together, and a child will lead them. 7  The cow and the bear will graze, their young
ones will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8  An infant will
play beside the cobra’s pit, and a toddler will put his hand into a snake’s den.
9  None will harm or destroy another on My entire holy mountain, for the land will
be as full of the knowledge of the LORD as the sea is filled with water”
Peace and harmony will reign; … even among the animals.
What we see here is a restoration of paradise, … simply put, … a return to Eden …
where the results of the Fall are reversed.
The separation between God and God’s Creation … will be overcome.
In Revelation 5:5 we are told: … “Stop crying. Look! The Lion from the tribe of
Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious.”

3

We are living in the last days. … Some may question that … but ever since Jesus
Christ’s ascension to Heaven, … the days of this planet, as we know it, … have
been numbered. … Yet amazingly, … with all the tension and unrest which we are
surrounded with, … we are living in the time of hope.
Because Jesus has come: … Jesus the Messiah … has overcome sin and death.
He teaches us … how to live in harmony.
He has called us out of a world of darkness and despair … into the world of
triumph and hope!!!
If Jesus is our Lord and Savior, … then we live as a part of God’s kingdom right
here and now!
What was it that Jesus told the disciples in John Chapter 14?: …
He told them that the Father would send the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name …
and He will; … “teach you all things…”
He also said in John 14: 23: … “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My
Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
Has God the Father, … God the Son … and God the Holy Spirit, … made His
home in our hearts, … in our lives?
If so, … what Jesus said to the disciples in vs. 27 goes for us as well: … “Peace I
leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.”
Paul writes in Romans 15: 5-7a: … “Now may the God who gives endurance and
encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the
command of Christ Jesus, 6  so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice. 7  Therefore accept one another, just as
the Messiah also accepted you”
Paul sees the reconciliation of humankind as a part of the vision of the good future
that God is moving us toward … and also as part of the hope that should already be
shaping our lives as people living in God’s Kingdom!
Paul stresses that, … in the Church, … all kinds of people can and should be
reconciled … and live together in harmony and mutual love.
Paul stresses that the Church should and can live in the world in a way that we can
be both, an example … and agents of the hope and peace God offers the entire
world … right here and right now!
So here is the challenge: … Because there are differences within the Church: …
differences of gifts; …
differences of temperament ; …
differences of opinion; …
Remember, … there is room for these differences.

4

When different people commune together in love; … “to live in harmony with one
another”, … our differences become something to celebrate, … not fight about!!!
Our differences are truly sources of enrichment and creativity … as we live as
witnesses to the world of God’s new age!!!
The problem … behind the problem … in many of our conflicts is some
incompleteness in ourselves: …
some bitterness; …
maybe a little anxiety; …
some lack of self-esteem and respect that makes us defensive.
But as we move into a trusting relationship with the living God, … we find God
healing our hurts … and taking away our bitterness; …
replacing our anxiety with the ability to trust; …
affirming our personhood with God’s love … and … in more ways than we can
list, … moving us toward wholeness, … harmony … and peace.
Jesus taught: … “The peacemakers are blessed, for they will be called sons of
God” … and this is what we are called when we give our hearts and lives to Christ;
… sons and daughters of God!
We are to be reconciled to those people with whom we are in conflict, in our
personal lives and relationships.
We know who those people are, don’t we?
They are the people who once did something hurtful to us (at least, we perceived it
that way) … and whom we have not forgiven.
They are friends or relatives from whom we have grown apart.
How would it be if each one of us made a list of the people with whom we need to
be reconciled with … and make some real effort to offer a hand of friendship to
each of them?
Now what about the communities in which we work and live?
What would happen if every time we hear someone “bad mouthing” someone else,
… we try to help them work the problem out with the person.
What would happen if every time we hear someone lumping together and berating
members of another race or group; …
we would say something like: … “They are people just like we are,” … or …
“What if we found ourselves in their shoes, … how would we feel?.”
As children of God, … we must look for every opportunity to bring Christ’s love
into every conflict.
Is there anything we can do to help bring about harmony and peace between
nations in conflict in our world?

5

We can teach the way of love that Jesus teaches us.
We should do all we can to teach all nations … (and those nations are appearing
right here in Mt. Pleasant, more and more) …, beginning with our own, …
the way of respect for others, … commitment to justice for all … and willingness
to dare to trust … and to work toward reconciliation … (or in layman’s terms …
“PEACE).
This is what we are called to do; … we are called to participate in what God is
doing.
In the coming weeks, … when we will again hear the Scriptures read in which the
angel spoke of peace on earth and good will among people, … we may still
experience sadness … because we know that the peace we hope for has not yet
come to completion in our world … our families … or to our lives.
Remember, … sadness does not have to lead to despair.
“A shoot has come up from the stump of Jesse”; …
“The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat. The
calf, the young lion, and the fatling will be together, and a child will lead them.
7  The cow and the bear will graze, their young ones will lie down together, and the
lion will eat straw like the ox. 8  An infant will play beside the cobra’s pit, and a
toddler will put his hand into a snake’s den.
9  None will harm or destroy another on My entire holy mountain, for the land will
be as full of the knowledge of the LORD as the sea is filled with water”
This gives us reason for the hope of peace!!!
I’ll finish with Paul’s writing from Romans 15: 5-6: … “Now may the God who
gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one
another, according to the command of Christ Jesus, 6  so that you may glorify the
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice”
AMEN

Advent Hope - 12/3/17

ADVENT HOPE 12-03- 2017

Micah 2: 5
Therefore, there will be no one
in the assembly of the LORD
to divide the land by casting lots

The Time is the 8th century before Christ’s birth. … The place is Judah, which was
commonly referred to as the Southern Kingdom. … Assyria had rose as a world
military and political power. … In fact, Assyria had successfully invaded the
Northern Kingdom, Israel, … destroying homes, families, villages and cities; …
taking the surviving people off into exile. … From Israel, … the Assyrian army
moved southward, into Judah and conducted several campaigns there.
The Assyrians wanted to expand their empire right into Egypt.
The people of Judah were living under a dark, menacing cloud. … The future
looked bleak. … As the war went on, more and more people were killed, …
homes and possessions destroyed, … families shattered and broken.
The people of Judah, so they thought, … were on the brink of destruction.
In the midst of this situation, … God sends a prophet named Micah.
Micah criticized Judah’s moral and social decay. … In his sermons, he denounced
the worship of idols … warning the people of the tragic consequences of their
apostasy.
Even with that being said, … Micah promised that God still loved His people and
offered them hope for the future.
It is this theme of God’s love and hope … that we focus on now.
At this time of the people crying out in despair ; … “there is no hope, there is no
tomorrow for Judah! We are lost and doomed!”, … Micah comes preaching a
message of Good News, … offering Judah, God’s love, … hope …
and deliverance.
Sitting on the ash heaps, … covered with soot and smoke from the smoldering
homes and burned dreams, … Micah the prophet came sharing hope.
He said: … “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; One
will come from you to be ruler over Israel for Me. His origin is from antiquity,
from eternity” (Micah 5: 2)
The people of Judah had seen many kings crowned and anointed … and all of them
had become corrupt and had failed.
“So, will this new king of the future be any better? … And besides, it might be too
late for a king anyway, … since it looks as if the Assyrians are going to destroy us.
We’re doomed! … What hope do we have against such a powerful enemy?”
Such was the line of thought of many people in Judah.

2

But Micah is saying of this king: … “He will stand and shepherd them in the
strength of Yahweh, in the majestic name of Yahweh His God. They will live
securely, for then His greatness will extend to the ends of the earth” (Micah 5: 4)
He tells the people that they will go into exile for a time. … However, … he also
tells them that the exiles, … the remnant of Israel, … will return and join their
other Israelite kin … back in the homeland.
Micah is saying: … “Yes, … we do have to face some dark and difficult times
ahead of us … but it is only a matter of time. … There is still hope for us in the
future and God’s love will prevail. … No matter how grim our present situation
looks, … don’t lose hope for the future; … don’t forget that God still loves us.”
“Even while you experience and face the greatest darkness, … God is working to
provide a better future for you and for your nation. … God will send you a
Deliverer. … He will come from the least-expected place, … from the tiny village
of Bethlehem. … He will seem like the most unlikely sort to rule. …
Yet, … it is He who shall be the Shepherd and Messiah-King. … You shall be given
your freedom. … He shall deliver you from your enemies, … protect and feed you.
… He will usher in His perfect kingdom, where everyone will live in perfect peace
and security. … Keep your hope in Him alive, … don’t forget that He will
demonstrate his great love for you!”
Newspaper columnist and Minister, George Crane tells of a wife who came into his
office for counseling full of hatred toward her husband: … “I do not only want to
get rid of him, … I want to get even. … Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as
much as he has me!”
Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan: … “Go home and act as if you really love
your husband. … Tell him how much he means to you. … Praise him for every
decent trait. … Go out of your way to be as kind, … considerate … and generous
as possible. … Spare no efforts to please him, … to enjoy him.
Make believe you love him. … After you’ve convinced him of your undying love
and that you cannot live without him, … then drop the bomb. … Tell him that
you’re getting a divorce. … That will really hurt him.”
With revenge in her eyes, … she smiled and exclaimed, … “Beautiful, beautiful.
Will he ever be surprised!” … And she did it with enthusiasm. … Acting “as if.”
for two months she showed love, … kindness, … listening, … giving, …
reinforcing, … sharing.
When she didn’t return, Dr. Crane called; … “Are you ready now to go through
with the divorce?”
“Divorce?” … she exclaimed. “Never! … “I discovered I really do love him.”
Her actions had changed her feelings … and her life. … Motion resulted in
emotion. … The ability to love is established, … not so much by impassioned
promises … as often repeated deeds.

3

This too, … is a message we need to hear and take to heart.
Even in our darkness or despair; … our experiences of living in exile; …
of struggle to see hope for the future … and God’s love in the present, …
we trust that God is working out a new and better future for us … and that His love
will not let us give up.
We may have to face the full consequences of our defeats and exiles, …
just as the people of Judah did in their day. … Nevertheless, … we are an Advent
people. … We are people of hope and love.
In being touched by God’s love, … we can love others; … in remembering God’s
people of scripture, …, we trust that there is hope for us too.
Just as Micah promised a coming king of Israel … who would; … “for then His
greatness will extend to the ends of the earth”, … so we, … like the people of
Judah, … wait for this coming king, … Jesus, … our Messiah.
One of the most beautiful stories in literature is the French classic, …
The Little Prince. … There is a line that has an Advent and Christmas message. …
The fox says to the Little Prince at one point,… “If you come at four o’clock,
I shall begin to be happy at three o’clock.”
This is the story of Advent. …
That is also where the expression, “The Happy Hour” came from; … not from 60
minutes to get intoxicated before dinner.
It is the happy hour of waiting in hope and expectation … (remembering God’s
love for us and the world by sending us Jesus).
That is what Advent involves; … Happily waiting for our Lord and Savior, …
knowing that He is coming. … This message of Advent hope and expectation; …
of God’s all-embracing love is for everyone. … It doesn’t matter how old or young
we are. … It doesn’t matter what our situation is, … God gives us hope …
and welcomes us to rejoice during this happy hour of Advent, … as we expectantly
wait for Jesus Christ coming to us … and spread His love around to everyone we
meet.
To conclude I’d like to share a short story titled: …
The Burning Hut
The only survivor of a shipwreck washed up on a small, uninhabited island.
He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon
for help, … but none seemed forthcoming. … Exhausted, … he eventually
managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and
to store his few possessions.

4

But then one day, after scavenging for food, … he arrived home to find his little
hut in flames, … the smoke rolling up to the sky.
The worst had happened; … everything was lost. … He was stung with grief and
anger.
"God, how could you do this to me!" he cried.
Early the next day, however, … he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was
approaching the island. … It had come to rescue him.
"How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man of his rescuers.
"We saw your smoke signal," they replied.
It is easy to get discouraged when life is going bad … but we shouldn't lose heart,
… because God is at work in our lives, … even in the midst of pain and suffering.
Remember, … next time your little hut is burning to the ground, … it just may be a
smoke signal that summons the grace … and HOPE … of God.
Amen

Giving Thanks - 11/26/17

Right now, most of us are sitting back wondering what happened to our waistline. That turkey,
that ham; … not to mention the gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes: … Then
there is the pecan pie. … Our arteries and stomach both scream out: … “WE NEED A
BREAK!!!!”
Every year this happens to most of us; … every year we proclaim it will never happen again; …
every year, … we break that pledge.
But it sure was good!
When I write: … ‘most of us”, … I know for sure that there are those in this community that
because of their own doing or maybe through no fault of their own, … will not have a
Thanksgiving Dinner at all. When Mary came to work this morning (Monday the 20 th ), … yes,
… the morning it got down to 26 degrees, a homeless person was asleep in his sleeping bag on
our pouch. I bet he will not have turkey or pecan pie on the 23rd. He was gone before I got to the
Church.
There will be moms that support their family with one low paying job because their husbands are
disabled … but their children still want to eat. …
We have some in this community whose economy has crashed around them that will be too
proud to ask for help, … seeing how they use to be the ones offering the help. They may have
some turkey lunch meat on a sandwich.
As we are recovering from our over-indulgence, we might want to open our Bibles and read
James 2: 15-16 (If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food 16  and one of you
says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body
needs, what good is it?).
Yes, … what good is it, … if we don’t reach out.
There is plenty of “hurt” out there … and who knows, … we just might be the Band-Aid they
have been looking for.
God bless you, …. Go Bless Another!
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Jim

Reunions - 10/29/17

Seeing a lot of my old buddies from school at my 50 year reunion this past weekend was a great
experience. What was equally impressing on me was seeing the Memorial Posters (that’s right; …
“posters” as in plural) with the pictures of all those that I will only be able to visit with again in Heaven. It even made me wonder why God did not have my picture among them.
The easy answer would be is that He has more plans for me … but what kind of an answer is that?! Was there not earthly projects that all of those on the two big placards could not have participated in?
I guess I’m getting into theology that will only be answered for me when I do join those others … but it does beg the question: … “Why me and not them?” or “Why them and not me?”.
I, … we, … are here for such a short time, … why do we believe it will last forever????????????
The last few weeks have taken a toll on me. A toll that has injured my enthusiasm when standing in the pulpit before you. I will get past this but I do apologize to you for that. But what about the enthusiasm of the congregation? … There are a few here at First Christian that jump at the chance to take on whatever project is in need … but there are many more who believe if they give one or two Sundays a month, 1 ½ hours of Church attendance, … they have done their duty.
That’s not the way it works!
We need to get the pulse of this Church body beating at a much more rapid rate. Our desire for Church should be greater than our desire of: … sleeping late, … getting to a restaurant before the rest of the Church crowds, … turning on the sports channel, … lying back in our recliner, … .
How much of “serving others” occupied our week instead of “serving ourselves”? How many Church
cards did we hand out to total strangers, … did we call up an older member of the Church and ask if they would like to go to What-A- Burger for lunch, … did we come to the Church and pray to God for each of the rooms; … that they might be full and serve Him better, … did we, … the last time we attended Church, … get so excited that we shouted out “AMEN!”?
We do not have tomorrow to take for granted! … We only have today … and we don’t even know if we have all of it.
If you are waiting for a preacher’s sermon to get your blood boiling again for Christ, … you are going to have a long wait. This is something that can only happen between you and the Holy Spirit.
To some reading this, … you know it already, … your enthusiasm is there and your service is intact. …
To others, … I may have hurt your feelings and you are wondering how long it would take to get another pastor.
My prayer is for the LIFE of this Church and that in the last days, … God will say: … “First Christian, …
you have fought the good fight, you have finished the race, you have kept the faith!”
Your servant,
Pastor Jim
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